Longtime Cactus League executive Robert Brinton died Friday, having established a life work of spring training promotion that dates to his childhood.
Brinton died at his office late Friday afternoon, a Mesa city official said. He was also the president of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Brinton was the Cactus League president when the Chicago Cubs considered leaving Mesa for Florida starting in 2009. He worked with the Cubs and Mesa to keep the team here, following decades of involvement with similar negotiations.
The voter-approved deal was finalized Monday, when Mesa signed off on an agreement to keep the Cubs here 30 years while building a $99 million spring training complex. The Cubs are the crown jewel of the Cactus League with their power to draw more fans than any of the association’s 15 teams.
Brinton’s presidency had ended by the time the deal was finalized. But he was the main contact with Major League Baseball teams who are interested in replacing the Cubs at Hohokam Stadium when the team’s new complex is ready in 2014.
As recently as Monday, Brinton, 60, told the Tribune that Hohokam got compliments from other teams and that it was likely to attract another franchise.
In the past couple years, Brinton was a major force in assembling an exhibit at the Mesa Historical Museum called “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience.”
Some exhibit items belonged to him and dated to his youth.
As a 6-year-old, Brinton stood outside Mesa’s Rendevouz Park to sell Cactus League programs at Cubs games in 1952. Brinton’s father, Dilworth, worked with Cactus League founder Dwight Patterson to bring the Cubs to Mesa in the early 1950s.
"Robert is a Mesa icon and did much for the city, the region and the state," said Peter Sterling, president and CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. "He's been a great partner for the Chamber for many years and he will be sorely, sorely missed."